Figures 1a and 1b.

Consolidation and testing with the Edinburgh Cohesion Tester

Tens of thousands of tonnes of coal pass through UK power station coal bunkers every day. When coal is placed in the bunker, it is assumed that it can be easily and freely removed by gravity discharge from the bottom using a feeder. However, when the coal is cohesive (sticky), it can easily develop flow problems, eg arching or ratholing. The potential of a coal to be free of such problems is termed its handleability, though this term is not scientifically defined. The stoppage of coal flow in a bunker depends on cohesion of the coal and the geometry and frictional properties of the bunker walls. Most bunkers can cope with coal with a low cohesion, but all will block when highly cohesive coals are placed in them. As a result, each power station bunker has a different limit on the acceptable coal cohesion. Clearing blockages and removing large volumes of cohesive coal from bunkers is very expensive and seriously disruptive to operations. It is therefore important that each coal is monitored before placement in a bunker to ensure that it can be freely removed again. Cohesion of coal depends on a large number of factors, including the constituents, particle size distribution, moisture content and handling stress history. As a result, the cohesion often varies daily or weekly with changes in the seams being mined, underground operations and decisions on the blending of different source coals. To guarantee the handling performance of each new blend, rapid tests are needed to determine the cohesion before it leaves the mine, and to determine the consequences of blending decisions before they are implemented. A project was initiated in 1996 by Edinburgh University to develop a tester, which was able to make real time measurements of cohesion, with the aim of eliminating these bunker flow problems. The result was the development of the Edinburgh Cohesion Tester (ECT). The development of the tester was supported by UK Coal Plc (formerly RJB Mining (UK) Ltd) and funded by the joint funding agreement between BCURA and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). This Case Study gives an outline description of the new tester (Figure 1) and presents some of the results that indicate why it is now being widely adopted in the UK.

The ECT offers a number of advantages over alternative methods of evaluating the potential of a coal to cause flow problems: • Measurement is made of the coal’s potential to cause flow stoppages, rather than of the notional flow rate through a model bunker. Tests are rapid, permitting real-time decision-making (~3 minutes). High reliability of measurement through repeatability, even with relatively inexperienced operators. Whole-sample testing, including the full particle size range.

• • •

The use of the ECT offers the following benefits in coal handling operations: • • • Testing can predict whether a coal being loaded into a train will cause problems on arrival at the power station. The acceptance criterion for a coal can be calibrated to the individual power station bunkers. Use of this tester as a formal part of coal handling management can eliminate power station coal bunker blockages. The tester can be used to characterise the handleability of different source coals available at a mine (run of mine, stock, singles, filter cake etc). Such characterisations can be used to make scientifically based blending decisions that produce coal blends of reliable handleability and economy.

The tester is a simple, robust and rapid device for handleability assessment. Extensive market opportunities exist for its use in: • Daily monitoring of coal handleability properties as coal is produced from the coal preparation plant and blended for shipment to power stations. Daily monitoring of coal handleability on arrival at power stations as part of contractual assessments concerning handleability.

MARCH 2002

Case Study 008


These problems have caused major costs to some plants. it cannot handle particles >5mm. the scientific study and a full-scale trial totalled £170. so sometimes too much is used. Since clean coals are the most valuable output from the mine. In order to overcome potential handleability problems. and have no scientific basis. but is a poor discriminator of marginal coals. blending with clean coal means that the product becomes more expensive for the producer. and then measuring its strength when the stress parallel to the arch is zero (unconfined compression). However. developed by the National Coal Board (NCB) in the 1960s. The Jenike shear test is well known and is currently used in bunker design for reliable flow. The sample mould is then removed and the sample is compressed to failure and the maximum load Fu is recorded (Figure 3b). despite regular and careful use of this apparatus. taken as the internal crosssectional area of the mould). and it has been shown to be sensitive to the mode of operation (ie operator skill). Occasionally measurements on samples of source coals are also taken. Other in-kind contributions were received from UK Coal Plc. Source coals are first mixed in assumed proportions and measurements of samples of the blend are taken at given time intervals. Owing to the lack of suitable devices for measuring handleability. However. inducing a cohesion corresponding to the stress state near the bottom of the bunker. The North America Reliability Council undertook a survey that showed that problems in coal handling are not rare events. which results from compression as coal is loaded into a bunker. DTI SUPPORT The development cost of the tester. The Durham Cone. even though its value has not changed. This state can be represented by compressing a cylindrical block of the solid in a confined mould. Testing devices previously used included the Jenike Shear Cell and the Durham Cone. Major cost savings could be made if an effective. DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITIES Arching Problems and Theory Cohesive strength. The ECT was developed to overcome the problems of predicting coal handleability and to develop a scientific means of improving coal blending procedures. its verification. and are sometimes imported from other collieries with additional transportation cost.919. and was provided by BCURA and the DTI through the joint funding agreement. However. it is commonly thought that the addition of clean coal (eg singles/doubles) will improve the situation. This can also be problematic and may result in: • extra labour being needed to make the coal flow when arching (or bridging) occurs in the receiving bunkers. Split mould Coal σp Paddle of feeder Arch across outlet σp Compressed coal Feeder table (a) Arching in typical bunker Cohesive strength envelope Shear stress Stress state in stable arch Stress normal to arch surface Stress parallel to arch surface σp (b) Mohr circle for stress state in arch Figure 2. Until now. Figure 2 shows the consolidation stresses causing the development of cohesion. this is a cost to the power station the coal producer being charged for each reported problematic unloading (transferring the cost back to the producer) serious disruption of the power plant if the train load of coal is rejected. a proper procedure for coal blending has never been proposed. If the results show that any requirement is not met. Theory of arching over a real coal bunker Normal stress Design and Construction The ECT was devised to measure directly the cohesive strength developed in a coal under a known consolidation pressure. A cylindrical sample of coal is consolidated under a vertical load Fc in a rigid split mould (Figure 3a). rapid and reliable method of assessing the handling characteristics of a coal could be produced to predict handleability before coal enters the materials-handling stream. Application to a wide range of mining products other than coal that present handling problems. predicting handling performance of coals was difficult.• • Data input into scientifically based blending decision-making processes. the proportions of the source coals are altered and this is repeated until a complete batch (train load) has been prepared. it takes considerable time to perform tests and to analyse data. The consolidation pressure and the unconfined compression strength are then given by sc = Fc /A and su = Fu /A respectively (A is the nominal value. plays a major role in coal handling problems. power generation and steel-making industries depend on reliable flow of coal through materials-handling equipment. blending practices have been based on experience (trial and error). The key feature of the formation of a stable arch or rathole is that the stress normal to the surface is zero whilst that parallel to the surface is insufficient to cause crushing of the arch. The development of an efficient reliable blending technique is clearly an important goal. At other times. but the information obtained is not used scientifically in the blending process because there is no technique available. the quantity of valuable source materials needed cannot be quantified. handling problems may arise because sticky coal is included in a coal blend. The Durham Cone gives a guide that can distinguish really bad and good handling coals. (a) . • • The substantial economic loss in any of these circumstances is clear. BACKGROUND Many operations in the mining. with nearly 1000 problematic bunker flow events reported in the period 1982-87 alone. measures the mean flow rate of a coal sample from a vibrating small hopper.

Coals E and F develop only a small cohesive strength and so should be handleable. (a) One dimensional consolidation and (b) uniaxial loading to failure of Edinburgh Cohesion Tester Figure 5. Table 1. One was an experienced tester. Sample height correction was included to avoid interference with the initial sample (cutting or adding material after consolidation). the variability of the coal products and the effects of coal blend proportions. lasting five weeks. UK Coal Plc wanted to undertake field trials to assess the handleability of various coal consignments. and to compare the results with existing Durham Cone measurements. blending decisions and stockpile management. Repeatability and Operator Sensitivity Eighteen tests conducted on one coal by a single operator are shown in Figure 4.4%) Polynomial fit Unconfined strength (kPa) 6 Jack Load cell Digital display 4 Coal sample (b) 2 Edinburgh Coal Type C Particle size : -6. When the consolidating stress levels are low (eg train trucks and small bunker situations). were conducted at a single mine in March 1999. Each operator conducted the tests blind and independently. two operators were used. coal samples were placed inside the cone and the time taken to empty under some induced vibration was measured. Sensitivity of tester to operator Similar unconfined compression testers have been proposed before. The ECT was then used to measure the unconfined compression strengths (cohesive strengths) of the same coals at different consolidation pressures. 4 Field Trials and Pilot Implementation Based on the success of the laboratory trials. A digital peak holder display was used to record the maximum vertical force required to fail the sample. but little effect on Coals D and E. which significantly improve the test procedure and results. • 8 Unconfined strength (kPa) 6 Experiments Polynomial fit The conclusions from the ECT were in excellent agreement with the mining operators’ perceived handleability of each of these coals. These features include the following: • • • • A three-piece split mould was used to minimise the disturbance whilst setting up the sample. Durham Cone tests on Coals D. Coal F stood out as the most difficult to handle and Coal E could also be problematic. has a considerable effect on the handleability of Coal F. Test repeatability .8% 9. Support of the mould on a soft elastic base was used to minimise wall friction effects during vertical consolidation. the number and the time when arching occurred etc) 2 Edinburgh Coal Type C Particle size : -6.75 1.9%) Operator 2 (m/c = 6. but this tester has several new features. About 750 cohesion tests were conducted on 50 coal consignments.3mm 0 100 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 Consolidation pressure (kPa) Figure 3. The handleability of each coal was related to the magnitude of consolidation pressure. All coals were classified as handleable and measured flow rates were very stable (Table 1). At medium to high stress levels (ie larger bunkers). Similar results were obtained (Figure 5) indicating the ECT was not operator sensitive and that careful training was not needed if the simple defined procedure is followed carefully. Following this. Laboratory Blind Trial Testing on three coals supplied by UK Coal Plc were conducted using both the ECT and the Durham Cone.8 Operator 1 (m/c = 5.5% 3. Handling performances observed on site were compared with those predicted by both the tester and Durham Cone. E and F Coal Type D E F Mean flow rate kg s-1 2. For the Durham Cone. which may occur during handling. Coal output at the mine varies on a daily basis according to changes in underground conditions. In general. discharge was observed and detailed information (eg total discharge time.72 The coefficient of variation 6. and substantially overcome the main problems encountered in other similar testers.3mm Moisture content : 5. the cohesive strength increased as the consolidation pressure increased. The tester was shown to be reliable and highly repeatable for a wide range of consolidation pressures.0% Similar handleability Easiest to handle Experimental Studies More than 30 source coals from about five UK collieries and three power stations were tested intensively to investigate the handling characteristics of coal blends and to verify the reliability of the tester. the other was given a 10-minute training session.09 1. Trials. Thus Coal D is handleable in all situations. Major factors that affect the coal handleability were studied extensively. In addition. The large numbers of cohesion tests were conducted to explore the repeatability of testing. At the power station. segregation. The observations drawn from these tests indicated the following: • • Coal D developed little or no cohesive strength for a wide range of consolidation pressures.9% 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 0 Consolidation pressure (kPa) Figure 4.

The ECT predicted that six consignments had high cohesive strength values and were therefore identified as problematic coal blends. Department of Trade and Industry.ooi@ed. UK Coal has found the Edinburgh Cohesion Tester to be a rapid scientific monitor of handleability that has had a significant effect on our business in an area that has until now been UK Coal plc (Formerly RJB Mining (UK) Ltd) Harworth Park. This was found to be the case even when other parts of the same consignment had reasonably low cohesive strength and therefore good Further information on the Cleaner Coal Technology Web: www. The two most important were found to be moisture content and particle size and both had profound effects when coal was • • In addition to the tester being used as a coal handleability Doncaster South Yorkshire DN11 8DB Tel: +44 (0)1302 751751 Fax: +44 (0)1302 752420 E-mail: enquire@ukcoal. This information was used to develop an optimisation Website: www. and that some coals may cause problems in wagons but not in bins.ukcoal. this is not true of coals that are being tested for handleability. If this value is breached the consignment is not sent and removed from our loading system for re-blending. The Edinburgh Cohesion Tester has given us the confidence we require to despatch our products with the knowledge that our customers will receive quality ‘Fit for Purpose’ mineral with minimal operational disruption. London SW1H 0ET Tel: +44 (0) 207 215 6261 Fax: +44 (0) 207 215 2674 E-mail: Cleaner. COMMENTS FROM UK COAL PLC Mr Steve Pringle. which now provides a very useful tool for coal preparation plant manager managers to achieve their blending Website: www. The tester was particularly useful in predicting whether arching problems are likely to occur once coal has been placed in a bunker. Blyth Road Harworth. so averaging of results or mixing of samples is most inadvisable. Therefore in the last phase of the research ash content and moisture content. Power station observations indicated that handling problems were experienced for all six of these consignments. they remain the only quantitative indicator of the handleability of each coal.gsi. CONCLUSIONS As a result of the funding received through the joint funding agreement. It has also been shown that great care must be taken over sampling: a traditional ‘representative sample’ may be a mixture of smaller samples taken throughout a consignment. With the tester it was possible to monitor the handling performance of constituent materials and all the properties including handleability of the final coal blend could then be predicted. whilst others may show the reverse. By contrast. the Durham Cone was found to be able to distinguish only between coals at the extremes of the range and was not a good discriminator for coals that were near the limit of handleability. These problems correlated to a large cohesive strength measurement. Whilst discharge time measurements are not precise and are subject to some human factors. unpredictable and costly.ed. Discharge time was taken as the period for each coal consignment to discharge completely from the receiving bunkers at the power station. The stickiest coal controls the occurrence of problems. the ECT was designed and developed. ORGANISATIONS INVOLVED IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THIS TECHNOLOGY FOR EXPLOITATION School of Civil and Environmental Engineering University of Edinburgh Edinburgh EH9 3JN Tel: +44 (0)131 650 5725 Fax: +44 (0)131 650 6781 E-mail: j. it can also be used as a scientific tool to understand the science behind coal handleability and coal blending: • A technique was proposed for producing a coal blend which guarantees a reliable flow in the handling system of a client at low production cost while all contractual requirements. The main conclusions are: • The ECT was shown to produce repeatable results with a high confidence level. as experienced by the end user. and copies of publications. particularly those that contain very fine mineral constituents have historically been difficult to predict. these occurred in different parts of the consignment.was recorded. are maintained.” Scientific Investigations The ECT was also used to investigate the influences of various parameters on coal handleability. with enquiries from the UK and abroad (USA. China and South Africa). However. and therefore is in advance of all existing handling measurement devices. • These studies have generated considerable interest. The experimental results from blind and field trials have shown that the tester is able to correctly predict coal DTI/Pub URN 02/852 . Each of our customers’ sites is given a specific maximum cohesion value of product which. we can accurately predict will flow effectively through their handling plant. These tests showed that there was considerable variation in coal handleability within each consignment and that. the Durham Cone predicted that they had good handleabilities. are not necessarily identified at our despatch units due to indifferent flow conditions and equipment design of mineral handling plant at our customers’ sites. • It is clear that each coal has its own characteristic behaviour. 1 Victoria Street. and to be effective whatever the operator’s level of training and experience. In addition it is simple. Group Process Engineer of UK Coal Mining Ltd says “The handling characteristics of our blended products. portable and robust. if handling problems were reported. The tester is capable of distinguishing the features of each coal that will be most problematic for handling purposes. can be obtained from: Cleaner Coal Technolgy Programme Enquiry Unit. such as calorific value. Problematic consignments of product. the ECT was used to optimise the coal blending process. Australia. with experience and real data. In contrast. The variability of coal handleability was further investigated by looking at the four cohesive strength measurements for each consignment.